Private Owned Clubs and The Battle To Survive in The Nigeria National League

By Alonge Akinlolu

Most clubs in the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) and the Nigeria National League (NNL) are sponsored by government who can really splash the cash.

Lately some determined private owned clubs who want to make a change in Nigeria football have taken a bold step to run a football club with a target of featuring in the Nigeria Premier League (NPL). Though a few of those clubs have achieved that but the main question is "have they been able to run as a professional club"

The budget to run a club featuring in the NPL (which is the highest level of league football in Nigeria) or NNL ( a second tier league in Nigeria) in a season runs into hundreds of million of Naira. That's the reason why most private owned clubs feature in the Nigeria Nationwide League (NNWL) where the amount they'll spend in a season is lower. They sell off their slot when they gain promotion from the Amateur to the professional league.

Last season in the NNL, four clubs pulled out of the league mainly due to financial reasons while a couple of other private owned clubs survived. Yes, planning goes a long way and clubs like TEAP FC of Abuja, COD United of Lagos, DSS FC of Kaduna, MFM FC of Lagos and First Bank FC of Lagos who aren't government owned will all feature in the Nigeria National League. While Union Bank of Lagos who are meant to feature in the NNL after an impressive run in NNWL (a third level league) winning twice on the road are at this time ( few days to January 25th kick off date) considering to sell their NNL slot.

Reason is that budget to run the club in the NNL is high.

The first club to pull out of the NNL last season (2012/2013) was Bridge FC of Lagos, then Divine Warriors (former Ocean Boys) which is government owned, later on Bolowotan FC of Ikorodu, Lagos pulled out of the league after the team honored six league matches, Apa United of Otukpo, Benue state also did same.

According to Toyin Gafaar, the chairman of Bolowotan FC of Ikorodu, private owned clubs spend so much yet the state government isn't helping in any form.

"I'm an individual who love to help the youth, engage them with what they love and put smiles on their faces but at this point I can't continue to sponsor the club because the financial burden is so heavy on me alone" said Gafaar.

What do these clubs play for in the NNL?

An obvious reason to feature in the league is to give a shot at promotion to feature in the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) but after that there's nothing really to play for.

Clubs don't get anything from the league instead they spend so much to register and still pick up the bills of officiating officials during their home games, they spend so much just to honor an away match in a 16team of two groups league format. The NNL has no sponsor neither is the league aired on TV. Which makes it even more difficult to follow, however, with the advent of the internet a couple of media platforms use that medium to create awareness about the league.

With these obvious challenges  staring at these private owned clubs, will clubs pull out of the league this season? There isn't any noticed sign that any of the private owned clubs will pull out as they are already preparing their respective teams ahead of next season.

A few of the clubs that participated in the NNL last season have been disbanded, Fountain FC of  Ekiti, Divine Warriors (former Ocean Boys) of Yenegoa, JUTH FC of Jos and Bolowotan FC of Ikorodu have all been disbanded. Though there are hints that Bolowotan FC of Ikorodu are planning a come back to NNWL.

Fountain FC, sponsored by Ekiti state government got an opportunity to feature in the NNL when Divine Warriors FC (former Ocean Boys) pulled out but the financial details of the sale of that slot wasn't made public. The club was disbanded at the end of last season. 

JUTH FC( Jos University Teaching Hospital) were disbanded after relegating to the lower division. Though there are hints of Bolowotan FC coming back to a lower division where the budget isn't on the high side but the team was disbanded after the club gave its NNL slot for free to MFM FC (Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministry)

(The author is a blogger  ( in Africa)